Can the Media Continue to Ignore “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal”?

Despite an important NY Times article written on the day of The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal‘s release in May, the mainstream media has virtually ignored this powerful new book which argues in painstaking detail that Abu-Jamal is innocent and that the actual shooter of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was a man named Kenneth Freeman. The one exception to this media blackout was an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by Milan Simonich. Instead of ignoring it like the rest of the mainstream media, Simonich chose to dishonestly present the book, contending that O’Connor “is guilty of writing the sloppiest, most one-sided crime book of the year,” by mixing “recycled conspiracy theories with his own sweeping pronouncements, most devoid of fact.”

To learn more about Framing and the meticulous arguments made by O’Connor, you can watch my video-interview with him at Philadelphia City Hall on the day of the book’s release (PARTS 1, 2, and 3) and read my text-interview with him a few weeks before that, which focused on how exactly the frame-up happened, Kenneth Freeman, the March 27 court ruling, and Frank Rizzo’s legacy. Abu-Jamal-News.com also features an excerpt, a previous interview, O’Connor’s review of “Murdered By Mumia,” and his response to the March 27 ruling.

For irrefutable evidence of mainstream media bias against the world famous death-row journalist considered by many to be a political prisoner, just compare this coverage of Framing to last December’s release of Murdered By Mumia, written by Michael Smerconish and Maureen Faulkner. The attention was massive and almost uniformly absent of any serious questioning of the book’s assertion that Abu-Jamal received a fair trial and that the evidence of his guilt is clear-cut. The Philadelphia Inquirer actually featured three days worth of excerpts from Murdered, but would not even mention any of the criticism of the book from Abu-Jamal’s supporters.

On December 4, two days before the book’s release, Journalists for Mumia organized a press conference to present our side of the story, arguing that Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial, and that there is evidence of his innocence that the court needs to consider. Along with a presentation of the newly discovered crime scene photos, our event featured Pam Africa (of The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal) and local journalists Linn Washington Jr, David Love, and David Lindorff who passionately argued for the legitimacy of the new photos as an important story deserving of media coverage, which they argued was just one more reason that Abu-Jamal needs a new trial. Despite my personal invitation to every Philadelphia media outlet I could find, not one single reporter from the local mainstream media covered our event. The only mainstream coverage came from British journalist Jon Hurdle of Reuters.

Hurdle’s article was the very first mainstream report of the new crime scene photos, and his article was cited the following week on Philadelphia’s NPR show Radio Times, and in an uncharacteristic Philadelphia Weekly article, which challenged Smerconish and Faulkner’s argument that the Abu-Jamal/Faulkner case is “open and shut”. While not cited directly on the controversial Dec. 6 Today Show, by co-host Matt Lauer, Hurdle’s article almost certainly helped persuade the Today Show to air the photos and, therefore, become the first television show to even acknowledge them.

By asking Faulkner and Smerconish challenging questions and accurately representing what Abu-Jamal supporters were saying about the photos, Lauer and the Today Show became the clear exception to the rule. As a result, right-wing media critics went crazy with outrage, and both Faulkner and Smerconish publicly vented their anger at Lauer, particularly for his last question to Faulkner: “Maureen, when you’re ever, when you’re alone, when you’re alone with your thoughts at night, when you even see pictures of the protest like the one we have across the street, does it ever cross your mind that perhaps they’re right? Do you ever allow yourself to consider the fact that perhaps he didn’t do this?”

Following the Today Show, I frantically sent personal emails to all of the same mainstream media folks (both local and national) that I invited to our Dec.4 press conference, and said: “Hey, this story of the crime scene photos is getting even more credibility! Isn’t this news now? Isn’t it only fair to present the opinions of Abu-Jamal’s supporters alongside those of Faulkner and Smerconish?” To top this off, I told the media about the slideshow presentation of the photos I would be giving on Dec. 8, for which I had contracted the use of the photos so that the media could film the event and therefore feature the photos on their news program. Guess what? Not one reporter showed up!

If these December events are not proof enough of the media’s inexcusable bias, just compare this to the abhorrent treatment of The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Faulkner, Smerconish, and other advocates of Abu-Jamal’s execution constantly say to “read the transcripts” for clear evidence of a fair trial and Abu-Jamal’s guilt. Now, here is a book that is based almost entirely on the court transcripts, but the author argues that these transcripts reveal a frame-up of a factually innocent man! This is not published by a leftist Abu-Jamal support group, but rather by an established publishing house. The most basic notions of journalistic fairness demand that Framing be given equal coverage, so that the public can hear both side of the debate and decide for themselves what they think of this case

This media blackout of Framing is even more scandalous following the May 2 NY Times article by Jon Hurdle, who also wrote the Dec.4 Reuters article. Being recognized in the NY Times should have been an impetus for more coverage by other media outlets, but instead, the mainstream media was uniformly silent until the dishonest May 18 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by Milan Simonich. Immediately after reading the article that day, I submitted this “letter to the editor,” but it was not published:

Milan Simonich “is guilty of writing the sloppiest, most one-sided” book review “of the year.” This dishonest review (5/18) gives further credibility to author J. Patrick O’Connor’s allegation of mainstream media bias against death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.

As detailed in an interview at Abu-Jamal-News.com, O’Connor does not “ignore the prosecution’s side of the story.” He doesn’t interview either the prosecution or defense. Instead, he relies entirely on the court transcripts and a few mainstream news articles to argue that the actual shooter of PO Daniel Faulkner was a man named Kenneth Freeman (who was mysteriously found dead the day after the infamous May 13, 1985 police bombing of MOVE). This transcript-based approach is powerful, because Abu-Jamal’s critics always say to “read the transcripts” for proof of a fair 1982 trial and Abu-Jamal’s guilt.

Simonich writes that O’Connor ignores/downplays Abu-Jamal’s alleged “hospital confession.” Actually, this alleged confession is central to the book’s “frame-up” thesis, because he (like Amnesty International) sees it as an obvious fraud. The “witnesses” allegedly forgot about the confession for over 2 months! While a hospital security guard did testify at the 82 trial that she immediately reported it to her supervisor, the trial was the very first time she mentioned this report, and she actually disavowed the alleged written (and unsigned) report that the prosecution presented in court. Further, her supervisor was never called to testify!

Sounds fishy, huh? This is just one part of the obvious frame-up that O’Connor exposes.

*****

Then, a few days after writing the Post-Gazette, I wrote this letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which was also not published:

I am disappointed that The Inquirer has yet to acknowledge the new book The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, by J. Patrick O’Connor. Just released by Chicago Review Press, it has been featured by the NY Times, and at my website, Abu-Jamal-News.com.

Advocates of Abu-Jamal’s execution always say to ‘read the transcripts’ for proof of a fair 1982 trial and Abu-Jamal’s guilt. However, O’Connor cites the trial transcripts to argue that police framed Abu-Jamal, and that the actual shooter of Officer Faulkner was a man named Kenneth Freeman, who was mysteriously found dead in a Northeast lot (reportedly naked, gagged, hand-cuffed, and with a drug needle in his arm) the day after the infamous May 13, 1985 police bombing of MOVE.

When Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish released ‘Murdered by Mumia’ in December, The Inquirer featured three days of book excerpts, and more. In the interest of fairness and balance shouldn’t ‘Framing’ be featured in at least one substantive article?

I do applaud the Inquirer‘s publication of the April 2 editorial by author Dave Lindorff titled “The Mumia Exception” that criticized the March 27 court decision denying Abu-Jamal a new guilt-phase trial. Please extend this same fairness to coverage of Framing.

*****

To recap, when Murdered By Mumia was released in December, the book received major coverage both locally and nationally. Almost uniformly, the coverage was uncritical and the book’s critics were ignored. When The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal was released in May, it was virtually ignored. Can the bias be more obvious?

On Monday, J. Patrick O’Connor kicked off his East Coast book tour with an appearance on the Washington DC, Pacifica Radio show Jazz and Justice and a book-signing event at Baruch College in New York City. Tuesday night, he is appearing at The Brecht Forum alongside Pam and Ramona Africa. Wednesday, he comes to Philadelphia for an event organized by Journalists for Mumia. The San Francisco Bay Area is now preparing for a similar tour this Fall.

The question now before us is whether or not the mainstream media can continue their shameful behavior in reporting on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A century ago, the journalist and former slave, Frederick Douglass said that “power concedes nothing”. Therefore, it is up to us to confront the mainstream media and demand that they stop ignoring this important new book. When we flexed our power last December, and wrote NBC’s Today Show to ensure fairness, we were rewarded with a stunning victory. Please help today by urging the national media, as well as our local media outlets, to report on this important book.

Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia-based photo-journalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners for over five years. Read other articles by Hans, or visit Hans's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hp said on June 27th, 2008 at 9:41am #

    Well yes, Hans, the media can indeed ignore this.
    They ignore the framing of thousands of Mumias.
    They ignore the framing of Oswald.
    They ignore the framing of Sirhan.
    They ignore the framing and torture of millions of Palestinians.
    They ignore the framing of “19 Arabs with box cutters.”
    They ignore the five dancing Israelis.
    They ignore Paul Wellstone.
    They ignore JFK Jr.
    They ignore almost everything.

  2. Hans Bennett said on June 27th, 2008 at 10:39am #

    only if we let them.

  3. Hans Bennett said on June 27th, 2008 at 1:22pm #

    Here’s an article by Philadelphia Tribune columnist Linn Washington Jr. who was the only journalist to cover our event, despite emails and faxed press-releases sent everywhere we could think of.

    NEW FRAME ON FRAMING BY POLICE

    By Linn Washington Jr.

    Many Philadelphians rudely reject the premise meticulously detailed in the new book by veteran journalist J. Patrick O’Connor: police and prosecutors framed Mumia Abu-Jamal placing an innocent man on death row.

    O’Connor provides solid proof for his premise from the very place considered by those convinced of Abu-Jamal’s guilt as their holy-writ: the official transcripts of court proceedings in this case sparking outrage internationally.

    O’Connor read the thousands of pages of transcripts from trial proceedings in 1982 and 1995 during the research phase for his easy-to-read book “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal” (Lawrence Hill Books 2008).

    Carefully citing trial proceedings, O’Connor’s book lists odious instances of wrongdoing by police and prosecutors – accomplished with judicial complicity.

    “From the beginning of this case, it was corrupt. It was a railroad job,” O’Connor said recently during a reading/book signing at a small venue on Baltimore Ave in West Philadelphia sponsored by the organization, Journalists for Abu-Jamal.

    “I wrote the book to show not only that Mumia did not kill Officer Faulkner but to show how and why they framed Mumia,” said O’Connor who lived in the Philadelphia area at the time of the brutal December 1981 crime at the heart of this controversial case.

    In 1981, O’Connor, currently editor and publisher of Crime Magazine, worked as an associate editor of TV Guide then based in a suburb of Philadelphia.

    Rude rejection in Philadelphia of ever mounting evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence is one reason why Philadelphia’s newspaper from dailies to weeklies have ignored O’Connor’s book despite lavishing coverage on the anti-Abu-Jamal book released late last year co-authored by the widow of Officer Faulkner.

    “The reception for my book has been pretty good everywhere but in Philadelphia,” O’Connor said.

    “The day after my book came out I came to Philadelphia and tried to talk with newspapers. I thought they would be interested in a book with a different angle,” O’Connor said.

    Beyond rude stiff-arming of the Abu-Jamal case, one problem with news media coverage of police misconduct in Philadelphia and across America is the practice of treating instances of police abuse as isolated instances instead of events in a long pattern.

    Police in Philadelphia, for example, recently raided the residence of a group of anti-brutality activists falsely detaining the activists, getting city housing inspectors to issue citations shuttering their home and trying to block them from entering City Hall to complain to City Council members about their mistreatment.

    Philadelphia’s news media reported on this questionable raid, even criticizing police handling of the activists yet news coverage failed to place this curious episode within the context of other Philadelphia anti-abuse-activists staging regular protests citywide against continuing brutality and demanding federal investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech contained criticism of “police brutality.” A 1950 petition to the United Nations charging the US government with genocide against blacks cited police brutality listing incidents of police killing blacks in Philadelphia among the evidence of genocide.

    Author Pat O’Connor said he remembers listening regularly to Abu-Jamal’s memorable reporting on WHYY-FM while driving to work.

    “I never heard reporting like he did. He has such a distinctive voice,” said O’Connor whose journalism career includes reporting for an international news service, editing a city magazine and owning an alternative weekly newspaper.

    O’Connor’s initial interest in the Abu-Jamal case arose from what he considered the seeming incongruity of a journalist whose work he respected being arrested for murder.

    “When I heard of his arrest, it didn’t seem right to me…but I bought the line because the papers in Philly had him convicted by the second day after his arrest,” O’Connor recalled during an interview last Thursday.

    Philadelphians rudely rejecting the reality of easy-to-see, in-your-face injustice is not limited to the Abu-Jamal case.

    Ironically, a prime example of a police-prosecutorial framing in Philadelphia sat a few feet from Pat O’Connor when he spoke in West Philly last week.

    Over two decades ago, Richard Kanegis endured a false arrest, flawed prosecution and unjust incarceration.
    Police arrested Kanegis on August 8, 1978 shortly after a fatal shoot-out between police and MOVE that day, charging Kanegis with interfering with police while he worked as a peace-keeper with a Quaker group.

    Prosecutors pushed the arrest case against Kanegis despite glaring discrepancies between court testimony of a policeman and that officer’s arrest report.

    Kanegis’ refusal to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit lead to his imprisonment by a Philadelphia judge who ethically should not have presided over Kanegis’ case because this judge’s uncle was the judge whose improper involvement in the MOVE case contributed to that 1978 shootout.

    In Philadelphia, rules are routinely broken in pursuit of an unjust result!

    Kanegis won release from prison when his lawyers presented an award-winning documentary film about that 8/8/78 incident showing no wrong-doing against police by this peace-keeper.

    Prosecutors rejected this film as evidence of Kanegis’ innocence, meanly proclaiming filmmakers edited out Kanegis’ criminal conduct – a charge the filmmakers denied in court.

    That film, providing many contradictions of police-prosecutor claims, showed a black policeman arresting Kanegis. Prosecutors constantly presented a white officer in court as the one who arrested Kanegis.

    Low-ball tactics by police, prosecutors and judges render Abu-Jamal’s conviction unjust, O’Connor contends in his book.

    “The DA’s Office withheld evidence that a driver’s license application found in Faulkner’s shirt pocket shows someone else was at the crime scene,” O’Connor said during his presentation last week.

    O’Connor contends Officer Faulkner’s killer was a man named Kenneth Freeman, the business partner and inseparable, life-long friend of Abu-Jamal’s brother. Officer Faulkner’s stopping of the brother’s car for an alleged traffic violation lead to the fatal shooting.

    The owner of that license application told police hours after the fatal shooting that he loaned the document to Freeman.

    Eyewitnesses told police Faulkner’s shooter fled, providing descriptions fitting Freeman.

    “Prosecutor’s are supposed to release evidence of innocence,” O’Connor said citing legal rules.

    Eyewitnesses told police that the passenger in the brother’s car shot Faulkner.

    Even the prosecution’s prime witness at Abu-Jamal’s murder trial, a prostitute name Cynthia White, testified in a prior trial that there was a passenger in the brother’s car.

    At Abu-Jamal’s trial, the prosecutor got White to change her prior testimony about the presence of the passenger, a tactic Pat O’Connor calls improperly deceiving the jury.

    The suspicious death of Kenneth Freeman shortly after the 1985 MOVE bombing remains a mystery. O’Connor questions why Philadelphia authorities failed to fully investigate the death of Freeman who was found naked in a secluded area. Authorities closed the case on Freeman’s death as a routine heart attack.

    Is the false arrest of Richard Kanegis and falsifying evidence in Abu-Jamal’s case items of a bygone era?

    No according to a recent appeal filed on behalf of one of the three victims of that infamous 5/5/08 Philadelphia police beating captured by a TV news station helicopter. This appeal details rank improprieties by police, prosecutors and judges.

    This appeal argues that dismissal of criminal charges against Pete Hopkins is “warranted because there is a clear showing of actual prejudice as Mr. Hopkins remains incarcerated while the police department and the district attorney’s office change and supplement the facts contained in the initial police report so as to turn it into something resembling a credible statement of probable cause.”

    Philadelphia judges have repeatedly refused to provide Hopkins with a preliminary hearing during the required period of ten days after his 5/5 arrest, a gross violation of his constitutional rights charges Hopkins’ attorney, D. Scott Perrine, a former Philadelphia prosecutor.

    Similar to the Abu-Jamal case, police in the Hopkins case are suddenly remembering facts that contradict their initial reports and police are producing evidence initial reports state did not exist.

    Richard Kanegis feels Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.

    Prior to his brief imprisonment in 1984, Kanegis told a newspaper reporter now felt that “the courts are more concerned with expediency than fairness and justice. I used to think expediency was the exception rather than the rule. The exception is that it is so public.”

    Kanegis agrees with the position of Amnesty International that expediency by judges has sabotaged justice in the Abu-Jamal case.

    Pat O’Conner said he began thoroughly investigating the Abu-Jamal case after Amnesty International began releasing reports questioning the fairness of Abu-Jamal’s conviction.

    Abu-Jamal’s imprisonment is “a clear cut case of monumental miscarriage of justice,” O’Connor said.
    -30-

    Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune who has covered the Abu-Jamal case since December 1981.

  4. evie said on June 27th, 2008 at 3:43pm #

    What ever happened to Arnold Beverly who gave an elaborate confession for the crime in 1999 which Mumia and his defense team rejected?

    Why did Mumia’s brother refuse to testify at Mumia’s trial and only 20 years later sign an affadavit stating Mumia did not kill the cop and indicate that his friend Freeman had participated in the murder? Wouldn’t this have been better said at his brother’s original trial? No mention as to who shot Mumia or put his own handgun at his side with 5 spent shells.

    Why was Mumia/Cook the “activist” and “journalist” working as a cabbie the night of the murder? B/c his career was over – he was not a threat to anyone or the Philadelphia establishment.

    His original trial may have been tainted – but Cook/Mumia himself created part of the carnival atmosphere. The “left” sure made a piss-poor choice when framing Mumia as their poster boy for social injustice.

    A brief stint in the Panthers and a supporter of the cult MOVE does not make Mumia a framed political prisoner. It’s an insult to genuine political prisoners everywhere.

    Some of the brothers really know how to play you white folk.

    We need a Free of Mumia movement. Parole the mutha and let him begin his tour of poetry readings in European salons.

  5. Lydia, CATALYST in MN said on September 21st, 2008 at 7:53am #

    “Evie” is obviously clueless–one more example of how “divisions” within a community can underminde any ability to act politically.I suspect some Balck people are simply jealous of the attention Mumia[s case and writings have gotten. has “Evie” ever READ anh of Mumnia’s commentaries or books? Get a clue, brother!
    Is it ‘better’ to fight for the driver of a get-away car or other accomplice in who PARTICIPATED in actual crime??? Would “evie” think that Stan “Tookie” Williams, cofounder of the Bloods–or ws it the Crips?–A CRI MINAL GANG responsbile for thousands of murders –was a ‘better” case to oppose the death penalty on?

    The REASON that Mumia’s case recieved so much attnetion is 1.it exemplifies all tha[‘s wrong with the US death penalty & more boradly the US criminal (in)justice system.. 2.a JOURNALIST was targeted—which the hope was would get more [eople engageed 3.the man is innocent! and the POLITICAL REASONS MUMIA WAS TARGETED BVY THE STATE should be reason enough to know Mumia’s freedom is critifcal for all dissidents.

  6. Dissident Voice : Mumia Abu-Jamal Faces US Supreme Court as New Book and Film Expose Injustice said on October 8th, 2008 at 7:10am #

    [...] timely NY Times article that spotlighted the book’s release in May, the mainstream media has virtually ignored O’Connor’s book. Supporters of Abu-Jamal are fighting back against this media blackout, and on October 3, author J. [...]

  7. Kid Music said on November 11th, 2009 at 12:02am #

    Good Interesting blog…